We’ve had a housebound life the past ten days due to a surgical procedure my husband underwent early last week (lying on the floor for the better part of nine days now, though much recovered and back to work part-time tomorrow). As we’ll be bringing home a new baby in about three weeks, I decided I might as well try to potty-train my 23-month old daughter (because how great would it be to only have one kid in diapers?). We were home-bound anyway which is half the battle in this arena – consistent oversight and proximity to the toilet. Moreover, the potty-training method I successfully used with our son is a three-day process that the author recommends employing when the child is approximately 22 months. (We underwent it with our son when he was 34 months.) I know two moms who have potty-trained their children at this age with this method so I thought – what’s to lose by trying?
My mindset going in was “this may not work but if it does, it will be awesome to only have one set of diapers to change… and if it doesn’t, I only spent a few days on it anyway and I can just table it for a few months and have at it with her later.” Seemed like a win-win, so off we went.
A day and a half in, it was evident that there was no point in continuing. My daughter was stressed, upset, and showing no signs of warming up to the process (or even the potty, upon which she cried every single time she sat on it – and upon which she didn’t once pee in those 36 hours). I was becoming cranky and taxed by the effort of continuing to work with her with no resulting fruit. And continuing this effort was clearly far from the best way to use her or my time and energy in the waning days of my pregnancy.
So we shelved it. Fine. No harm no foul.
But the whole experience got me thinking about us as moms, loving the kids we have. Specifically I was thinking this: my daughter is an absolute delight right now. She’s cute and chatty and engaged and fun to be around. She makes my husband and me laugh or smile a dozen times a day with the zany songs that erupt from her mouth, her imitation of her brother’s words or antics, funny behaviors. But then here we were, entrenched in this experience that was stressing and taxing her, bringing out the worst in her (in terms of emotions and responses), and robbing us of her pleasant and current happy-go-lucky mindset. And it made me realize how easy it can be for us parents to push or coax our kids into scenarios that aren’t right for them at a given time. Would it have been nice if my daughter was quickly and simply toilet-trained without fanfare at 23 months? Absolutely. But that just isn’t my daughter – period.
One book I like is Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, not a faith-oriented book by any means, in which the insightful first chapter is called “Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To.” In it author Tracy Hogg writes about the expections or desires that parents can place upon their babies and the disappointment they can feel when their preconceived image of their kid and the real person don’t match up. “You can’t assume that because your friend’s daughter has a sunny disposition and easily takes to strangers, your baby girl will. Forget about wishful thinking. You must deal with the reality of who your child is-and know what’s best for your child. And I promise that if you watch and listen carefully, your baby will tell you precisely what he needs and how to help him through difficult situations. Ultimately, that kind of empathy and understanding will make your child’s life a bit easier, because you’ll help him build on his strengths and compensate for his weaknesses.”
I really appreciate Hogg’s insight here. I’m particularly impressed with how closely her sentiments resonate with the Bible’s teaching about our individuality as humans and how intimately, personally, and deeply we are each cherished by God. “My frame was not hidden form you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body,” wrote the psalmist. And Jesus himself told his disciples, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Our God is all about “the reality of who” we are, as Hogg stated, and who our child is. Nothing generic or cookie-cutter about us humans; each of us is an individual created in a customized manner by the hands of our Father. It’s actually a little astounding when you stop to think about it.
So this is my takeaway today – celebrating and relishing the reality of the little person that God made my daughter to be. He thoughtfully and intentionally created her temperament and character traits and put her into my husband’s and my hands and care for this time. She’s a gift God gave us for this season in our life that we get to open, week after week. Same with our son – and the daughter whose acquaintance we eagerly anticipate making for the first time in a few weeks. Praise God for that.